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Jun 2, 2011

The day after squatters’ houses torn down

It is more than twenty-four hours since seventy-five persons were left homeless when the police demolished houses from land they have squatted on in Lake Independence where construction is taking place to link that area to Chetumal Street in Belama. The affected persons including infants, school children, women and men bolstered with support from Belizeans for Justice and COLA, headed into the City and temporarily blocked the Belcan Bridge. Armed police clashed with the vulnerable group, the situation was explosive and volatile, but thankfully the unrest was brought under control.  This morning even before the break of dawn, we headed back to the squatters’ site for a firsthand look at how they were faring. It was a heart wrenching sight; children and women huddled in the cold and rain. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report.

Blanca Perez, Daughter of Evicted Squatter

“I mih cyan’t sleep good because [of the] water.  Rain come and ih mi wet up all ah we.”

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Eight year old Blanca Perez, her mother and her siblings are spending the night in what is left of their wooden abode.  Twenty-four hours ago this family, like several others along Fabers Road Extension, came under siege by an army of workmen sent to destroy their residence.  Along with her brothers and sisters Blanca has made her bed on the stiff plywood flooring.  It’s a far cry from the comfort of the mattress she once occupied.  The sight of the impulsive destruction will forever remain with her.

Blanca Perez

“I mi sih how one of [the men], I mih sih how people mi di bruk [down] house and everything and move up [things].”

Across the hall lies a pregnant mother, a toddler at her side.  She’s a month into her second trimester. Braving the downpour around midnight was only a fraction of the discomfort she’s had to face.  Mosquitoes are swarming and they’re feasting on everyone.  The absence of exterior walls doesn’t make things any easier.

Rosa, Evicted Squatter

“I need di house to live, especially for di babies.  Weh part di kids have to sleep? Dat da weh I have to ask he [the prime minister], why?  Weh we have to sleep?  Last night how we sleep here, it has lotta mosquitoes and dehn di bite and I noh have wall eena di house.  How I di feel?  I four months pregnant and how I di feel?”

The conditions they are now subjected to are indescribable.  This, after a long day of forceful eviction from government property and having the police sicced at them for blocking the BelCan Bridge, is a bitter pill to swallow.  For Colin Soriano it has been equally difficult.  He has had to stand vigil over his family and their belongings since nightfall.

Colin Soriano, Evicted Squatter

“No podemos hacer nada. Gotta sleep right here noh.  No podemos donde a ir.  Quebraron nuestros casa y no podemos donde a ir.”

A few hundred feet away another family is waking up.  Unlike the previous household they are completely exposed.  This infant is fast asleep on a mattress outside.  The others are literally rousing under their flooring.  In the wake of the demolition it has become the very roof over their heads.

Jeni Giron, Evicted Squatter

“It feels really bad.  It feels like nobody is there beside you because we don’t have any place to live on and when you just come it’s like oh my gosh and sometimes they don’t [look at] it from our side how we suffer maybe because they have more money than we but they don’t know how we suffer to do a building, fi du a house and our parents work so hard to do one little house.”

Jeni is currently attending Canaan SDA High School.  She is scheduled to sit final exams today but is unprepared.

Jeni Giron

“I have exams today and then I do not really know what to do because I didn’t even study for today to take the exam.”

Back at Rosalia Molina’s house I spoke with Hector Madrid who is also directly affected by the displacement.  He reflected on the face-off with police officers on BelCan Bridge the day before.

Hector Madrid, Evicted Squatter

“We have nowhere to go.  I mean at the Belcan Bridge the police were shoving kids.  They were beating kids, shoving mothers, a child [was] crying.  I mean it’s 2011, we’re not supposed to see that.  I mean I think we are civilized people why don’t the government come and talk to us like civilized people.”

And for its part the government says, according to ACP Elodio Aragon Jr., that it has brought it to their attention both verbally and in black and white.

Elodio Aragon Jr., Assistant Commissioner of Police (File: June 1st, 2011)

“We have already spoken to these people time and time again.  The last time you guys were out there you saw, we spoke to them, we gave them letters.  We have spoken to them on several times when we sent our patrols in there to ask them to desist from what they are doing as that land is government land.”

The current situation, in light of the recent action taken by GOB, can either be viewed as a people’s determination to remain put despite compulsory removal or desperation knowing that there is nowhere else for them to go.  Anson Sanchez is at that crossroad.

Anson Sanchez, Vice President, Holy Emmanuel Extension Committee

“I expected to deal with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Lands who directly is involved [in this matter].  Everybody is saying [that] dis is fu he thing, this comes from the Ministry of Natural Resources and [thing] but, you know, I haven’t gotten the opportunity to really talk with him [as] yet.  On Monday I spoke with him and he promised me that this problem it won’t be like this and come to see Wednesday, Wednesday morning I have been awoken out of my bed for a phone call about 4:30 that, you know, I’d say that they way how they put it is like some ‘crazy man’ just get crazy and knock down house.”

…and along with that the government has come under intense scrutiny from Belizeans on both sides of the squatting divide. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The squatters say they hadn’t heard from government, but this afternoon in the face of two protests within a period of five days, police issued a warning against illegal processions saying that the Department cannot allow for persons to disrupt roads and major highways since it constitutes a crime.

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21 Responses for “The day after squatters’ houses torn down”

  1. BZNinCALI says:

    Where were they living before they decided to take the land? All of these children who are there with their mothers, have fathers, where are they? And yes I am aware of The pregnant woman did not get that way on her own, why has his family not opened their door to her. They will have to swallow their pride & sleep on someone’s floor until they can do better but it is time to take the word “Free” out of our vocabulary.

  2. savebze says:

    Why does these people think they can come and live in Belize as they do in their counrty. Belize has become a real low life country since bringing in all those immigrants from Central America. Look at Albert street and Belize City as a matter of fact: it looks terrible with all those vendors along the streets. All those spanish speaking countries around Belize allow the people to live in slums. Belize gave them too much opportunities when they came, so now they think they own the Country. I agree with Minister Martinez, all born Belizeans from way back would love to own a piece of land and some just cannot afford it, why should they just come in our Country and squatt. Channel 7 is wrong to let them think it is okay.
    Please change the law of the land.
    God Bless Belize.

  3. jose says:

    BZinCALI let me tell you that the issue is not free ok the issue is where are these people going ah you have a lands for them or what .. so you depend on your family then thats a shame everyone should at some point in life stand up for them self ok so stop that shit now about free

  4. Coralblack says:

    British Honduras (Belize) is a (Cooperation) and a subject of the (British Crown). The Queen of England is the Head of State for Belize. Note. (Belize Constitution is not a Land
    Deed). The his-story of (British Honduras) was built on (ie) Illegal Immigrant. Most of Us are descendants of Illegal Immigrants. Anyway ,the Earth belong to the Almighty Creator and the fullness thereof. No Man created this Earth, so no Man have the right
    to tell another where he, She can live, or not live. So before we call anyone illegal, do some research on One’s own history, and analyze the facts. Like Gill Scott Heron said,the
    revolution will not be Televise. (Power to the People) Love Justice So We All can Live In Peace.
    YHWH Shalome

  5. melvin says:

    I strongly agree with the GOV.I am not racist ,but I don’t agree with those people who are living there.This is belize this is our country and not even we do that of taking land just like that.I am a belizean by birth and for me to have a pice of land took me a long time I had to go throug procedures and now all of them just want to come and take OUR land NO NO NO.They should understand that they would have not like we do them the same thing of just going to there house and take thier goods as they are doing to us taking our country.In the the census we can see that the imigrants are the couse of the rappidly incrising of population they 1belizean! 5imigrants!.Belize should start to do like the USA sending back home.

  6. endo says:

    it’s a shame of what kind of goverment we have does he have a heart it doesn’t seems so how can he leave poor kids on the streets

  7. Sharry says:

    Maybe we learn the word free when Barrow and his government keep the grab and not sharing I voted for Barrow and damn it if I knew he would have run this country in a dictatorship he would have definitely never ever gotten a vote from me and as to minister martinez he needs to talk about the money he spend on his dumb daughter at law school str8 up what they did was wrong every Belizean naturalize or not should entitle to a piece of land voluntarily or involuntarily!!!!!

  8. LARGE AND SEXY says:

    SEND BACK DEM !@$$ DA GUATE OK, PLEASE NO FEEL SORRY FOR THEM BECAUSE WE CAN’T GO DAH GUATE AND SQUAT ON LAND THEY WOULD SURLEY KILLED US.

  9. EMS says:

    Very sadly, so it is amazing the way some people think, basically from reading some of the comments some people write, it appears as if most of these people hasn’t got a clue about anything, in terms of the world we are living in, historically squatters has been the way of life in almost every part of the globe. Begining with Columbus, Pilgrims, Israelis in Palestine, Garifuna and an array of people including the so-called creoles and their descendants were squatters at one time or another over the centuries. So called African Creoles and Garinagu people are not the original land owners in the original so-called British Honduras. Even the Brits were squatters at one time or another. Lets render to Caesar what is is Caesar, and stop the bickering about Squatters. Our current GOB should be ashamed of the actions taken on these poor unfortunately people. The rich gets richer while the poor gets shafted/poorer. Finally, are not itched in stone, they should make some accommodations for some of these people. Especially those with school age and younger children.

  10. cg says:

    i guess we know why this happen….there are also heartless people out there who actually believe this government was justiified in doing thing…no wonder things are so bad

  11. Candy says:

    not into dat $#!%.

  12. Negus Internet Solutions says:

    Them Guatemalans are coming here in Belize City to just take our lands, because we the Belizeans are scared or hard work or just simply LAZY, thats y the Guatemalans and Honduran are taking the land. We Belizeans need to take our lands. The Almighty put the land here not for sale, but for his people to live on freely. The system set it this way.

  13. Storm says:

    In regards to the sympathy that exists for those who have suffered from this eviction: again, I completely understand your feelings, and, again, I concur with the idea that these people were evicted in a manner that was somewhat brutal. However, it was the case that these people were warned repeatedly about squatting on that land by the government and it was the case that they didn’t listen. So, despite the fact that these people are poor and despite the fact that there are little children involved, that doesn’t excuse what these people did and they had to suffer the consequences of their actions. Indeed, as many others have said, you can’t expect to go into either Mexico or one of the Central American republics and squat on their land; if their governments didn’t evict you from the land you’re squatting on, it might have been the case that you would have been killed by the locals out of a belief that you’re trying to take their land from them.

  14. Janet says:

    @BZNinCALI it seems you have major problems and some sort of prejudice towards women. I do not think where the fathers of the children are is any of your concern; what should be your concern is the fact that these women are trying to take care of their household and not depend on the government of the day to do so like what a lot of our Belizeans who are naturalized in the US do. Maybe you are on EBT and/or Section 8 and you are being subsidized by the US government hence you have so much time to be on the internet writing your crap. @EMS I am a Creole not a so-call Creole and I sure as hell do not support what the government did to those squatters but you could have written your post without stepping on any toes. Throwing low blows shows ignorance on your part. Again I will say the government is heartless and who are we to judge these squatters maybe they are naturalized as the government of the day tends to do that in order to win elections. We need to have a heart when it comes to children, they did not ask to come into this world.

  15. Elgin Martinez says:

    This problem starts with our Government.If the immigration Department was doing what they’re suppose to be doing there is a posibility that these people wouldn’t have even been in Belize.As a result let’s not try to justify this inhumane act by our government on these people.Furthermore these people’s Human rights was violated.Last but not least a person’s Human rights should take precedence over their immigration status.

  16. Real Justice says:

    Whether these people were born in Belize or not, the fact remains that they are human beings and should not be treated this way. I worked with the government for many years and I personally saw Mr. Stanley Usher in the Toledo District bringing in a large number of immigrants from Guatemala through the Jalacte road to win an election for the UDP. I know for a fact that this is done by both UDP and PUP.
    After using these poor people to win elections, this is the way they are treating them. The immigration department cannot send them back to their country because they were hastily given legal documents for votes. This is where the international human rights group should step in and indict these politicians.

  17. here says:

    Bzean get out of there! Belize will become like Serria Leon when it was at war. Save your self and your family. i got out of there because the gov, would not grant me land…Born Bzean, family are Bzeans paid tax work, schooled in bze. NO hope there for me. this world is free….get out of that place, there are better places with freedom and rights. Sad to say i wish i would not be saying this about my country. but it never had pitty on me.

  18. toucan says:

    Whilst I do not gree with the way they were treated, they do not have a right to that land. Children will always be used as a scapegoat. I do agree there are too many immigrants from surrounding countries in Belize and us Belizean should be given our piece of land and we do not go around squatting. In the Uk Squatters have rights, they can go and live in empty properties and get away with it, so at least this does not happen in Bze. Since so many Aliens from CA have moved to Bze the crime rate has gone up and this happens in all countries. I don’t support this government and hope when I eventually return they will not be running the country and I can get a piece of land. I also had to buy my land, me a belizean.

  19. disappointed says:

    HEARTLESS!! Though it is true that they were not to settle on the land the way that things were carried out was brutal in every sense of the word. Accomodtions should have been made for these people before tearing their shelters. Our country is being run by senseless hooligans. What is even more depressing are the racist and heartless posts by our citizens shame on you all.

  20. bzeanbrain says:

    BZNinCALI let me tell you that i am pretty sure you are also an immigrant in the US (perhaps illegal) am sure if the US apply d same thing to you, your thinking would change.

  21. Earl Grey says:

    @ Justice……….IS THAT LIKE………………..HUMAN TRAFFIC-ING??????

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